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Zimbabwe journalists worried: Mugabe cabinet -

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TIM PALMER: Journalists in Zimbabwe are increasingly worried that reporting in the country is about to get a lot harder.

Since his inauguration three weeks ago, Robert Mugabe has announced a new cabinet that includes a former information minister who is known as the media hangman.

In the past he's deported foreign journalists and introduced draconian laws which saw some media professionals jailed and others tortured.

Martin Cuddihy reports from the ABC's Africa bureau.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Robert Mugabe's new cabinet includes some old faces. His chief propagandist will be the information minister Jonathan Moyo. He's previously held the post for five years.

One of the people who was detained under laws he introduced is Margaret Kriel, a white Zimbabwean.

MARGARET KIEL: There were six or seven of them, men in dark glasses and men with guns, men with AKs. It was a pretty scary time.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: After disputed elections five years ago, the Kriel family home was a base for journalists. One of them was their daughter. The armed police were looking for Robyn Kriel but they got Margaret.

MARGARET KIEL: I confessed to being the dreaded journalist and they took me away. My husband was aghast. He was white as a sheet. He sat down on a rock and didn't know what his wife was up to. And took me away to jail for five days.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: And what was your experience in prison like?

MARGARET KIEL: It was dreadful. In those days, in 2008, there was nothing in the shops. You were allowed two items of clothing, a top and a bottom, nothing else. You're not allowed shoes, you're not allowed socks, you're not allowed toilet paper. And I was put into a cell with, there were 21 other women. And it was freezing. It was April and it was middle of winter and we had four blankets. There were 22 of us. There was no food. There was no water.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Takura Zhangazha is with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe. We spoke to him via a scratchy Skype connection from his office in Harare. He suspects Mr Moyo will again introduce laws that heavily censor all content.

TAKURA ZHANGAZHA: It's very hard to be a free independent minded journalist in Zimbabwe. And then there is always the threat of arbitrary arrest, even if the charge does not stick in court.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Zimbabweans are not surprised Jonathan Moyo is back in cabinet, even though he did not win a seat at the election. His loyalty to Robert Mugabe helped him secure a position known as a non-constituent minister.

GRIFFIN SHEA: I think it definitely is a sign that Robert Mugabe is feeling much more confident after this last election victory.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Griffin Shea was in Harare reporting for AFP when he read in a government paper his visa had been revoked. He says incremental improvements in media law will now most likely be lost.

GRIFFIN SHEA: It's still illegal to have a meeting of more than a handful people, even in your private home. It's still very difficult for journalists to report. Even during this last election, a lot of my foreign colleagues were not allowed to enter the country.

So to have Jonathan Moyo coming back in, it's more a sign that they're willing to use those powers that they never gave away. And I do think it's worrying for press freedom in Zimbabwe, which despite everything had began to open up quite a lot in the last four years.

MARTIN CUDDIHY: Making one of the hardest places in the world to report even harder.

This is Martin Cuddihy for AM.